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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Former political prisoner and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi addressed a crowd of students and visitors in Comstock Hall at the University of Louisville Monday morning.
She is one of several speakers brought to the University of Louisville by the McConnell Center.
Suu Kyi was only recently allowed to leave her native country of Burma after just over 20 years of imprisonment. She was placed under house arrest in 1989 after publicly speaking out against the shooting of thousands of people in Burma who took part in a nationwide pro-democracy strike. In 1990, the party she led won a landslide election, but the military regime ignored the election results.
In April, after worldwide pressure, the Burmese government recognized Suu Kyi's election to the country's parliament.
On Monday, Suu Kyi spoke to the crowd at U of L's School of Music building and addressed the current situation in her country.
"A genuine democracy depends on people feeling that they are a genuine part of the process of government," she explained. That said, she added that her country has "a long way to go."
"We do not have a judiciary that we can be proud of," she said. "We need an independent, well educated and fair judiciary."
She then called on everyone in the audience -- including displaced Burmese residents and those from this country -- to help Burma forge a brighter, more democratic future.
"We must work together," she said. "It does not matter where you have settled. It does not matter what nationality you have taken up."
"You do not have to be Burmese in order to help Burma," she added. "I am not aware that Senator McConnell is Burmese, but he has helped us a lot more than many of my fellow countrymen."
Suu Kyi added that the important thing was not just to establish democracy in Burma, but to maintain it.
"We've got to create a process where reversing the process will be much more painful for everybody than moving forward," she said.
After a brief address, the meeting was opened up for questions from the audience. One audience member asked whether or not Suu Kyi supported the lifting of sanctions on her country, given reports of human rights violations still taking place there.
"Yes – I support the lifting of sanctions, or the relaxing of sanctions I should say," she said. "The sanctions have been a great help to us. I doubt we would be where we are now if those sanctions had not been instituted."
But she added that the Burmese people could no longer rely on sanctions to end the human rights abuses for them -- they must take the initiative to end them themselves.
"I would like to give my people a chance to show that they can make progress," she said.
One attendee asked Suu Kyi what lessons the United States should learn from her and her country.
"What you should learn from us is how valuable your democratic rights are, and together with those rights, you have the responsibility to try to preserve them," she replied.
At one point, the media's role in a democracy came up.
"I have to confess that I have some concerns about the role of the media," Suu Kyi said. "We find that people have become too media conscious – by this I mean public personalities." She added that politicians often, "aim their actions at media reaction, instead of doing what is right."
"Do you not find this here?" she asked.
The audience erupted in laughter.
"I find this worrying – that your politics and your principles should be over influenced by the media."